By the turn of the century insanity was thought to be incurable and the hospital population just kept growing. As most of the patients were expected to be permanent residents, the budget got tighter. In an attempt to relieve some of the financial burden, occupational therapy was introduced and they set the patients to work doing laundry, in the kitchen, carpentry, tinwork, basket making, sewing, rug weaving, black-smithing, and in 1915 the farm was established.
The farm was first overseen by Dr. William Keller, but was taken over by Dr. Charles Taylor when Dr. Keller was called for active duty in WWI.
At the height of it’s operation the farm had about 350 male patients that worked with livestock and in the fields and orchards. The female patients were in charge of canning and seed preservation. A separate dormitory was built for the patient farm workers which became known as "The White House," or "Hill Ward." The farm operated until 1965 when it became obsolete, and The Hill Ward was abandoned.
Despite the hospital’s reputation for it’s revolutionary medical practices for treating the mentally unstable and the success of the farm, there are reports of severe neglect and torment of it’s inmates in it’s early days. The hospital practiced electroshock therapy, hydro therapy, and performed countless lobotomies as well as other cruel and inhumane experiments on the patients who had otherwise been discarded from society. The disregard for the human condition is evident in the hospital’s graveyard where graves are marked by numbers rather than names.
Because of the gross injustices, many believe that these grounds are haunted by the tortured souls of the patients. There are reports and stories, from many visitors of the ruins, of voices and other phenomena in the way of pictures.
If you would like to read some you can visit Haunted Washington and Old Western State for some accounts, and more history of the hospital can be found at The Western State Hospital Historical Society.
The structure remained standing after it came into disuse, but in 1989 it was used as target practice for the military. Today the ruins are used by the local fire department for search and rescue missions.
On June 24, 2004 I visited the remains of The Hill Ward.
This is the view coming up over the hill to the ruins.
An interior shot of a ceiling/floor, and me forgetting about our old friend backlighting.
The Smiley from Hell.
This image should be flipped, but alas my computer won’t do that for some reason. I tried to avoid this as much as possible, but there are a few. I believe that is a vent or a laundry chute of some sort.
This appears to have been a bathroom.
This looks like a prison window to me.
And now we switch to color….
If you look closely you’ll see what appears to be a stencil of a cat. Upon closer inspection of it, however we discovered it to be a rendering of the devil.
A view from one of the rooms on the lower level. As you can see, the vandals have left no spot untagged.
As we were tooling around downstairs I happened upon this random greeting card.
"Happy Holidays! Mrs. Ogden." I assume she’s a teacher at either the high school or community college that is nearby. The ruins are a popular hangout.
"While in mind I process to defy the system I doubt that it is only in body that I am subservient to it. Meanwhile, my world, my country, have made me sour than Liberty Cabbage. -Marius Vampyre.
Down in the boiler room…
Nevermind my friend with the pink flashlight.
And that concludes our trip to The White House. Sadly, when we returned on July 11th it was in an even worse state of disrepair. Independence Day partiers had torn down a lot of the fence, grass was torched, and there were remnants of fireworks everywhere. It was sad, really and ended up infuriating me. I mean, it’s not like it hasn’t already been marked with years of graffiti but that was just over the top. You know?
At least I’ll have the memory.
This will be cross-posted in my journal, and a few images will be placed in found_objects.